A love for cool beauty - Interview with Isabelle Bacher
Bright tent in snowy forest - Photo: Isabelle Bacher.
There are definitely much more pleasant locations for a photo shoot than the Arctic. Isabelle Bacher's impressive results show that it is still very much worth it.
When you hear that someone 'works where others go on vacation', the first thing that you probably think of is a tropical paradise or a major metropolis. For Isabelle Bacher, something else entirely comes to mind. For her, the perfect subject has snowy peaks and a pleasant temperature that poses a challenge for both the body & technology. Isabelle Bacher is a multi-award winning landscape, architecture, product and portrait photographer from Austria as well as a WhiteWall Ambassador.
Isabelle Bacher - Photo: Cecilia Anderson.
The ice, the light, the mountains – all of these elements fascinate Isabelle Bacher. So much so that the trained architect with Norwegian roots has already lived in the Arctic for 5 years now, spending her time capturing the beauty of the cold landscape of Norway's midnight sun.
Spitsbergen - Photo: Isabelle Bacher.
"Weather is the biggest challenge in the Arctic," explains Isabelle Bacher. At these temperatures, you can no longer rely on technology. The camera may only be unpacked at the very last moment and always has to be held close to the body so that it can be warmed somewhat by the body's heat. I use tape to attach my batteries directly to my body. I have to be completely focused on my goal here, since you only have a limited window of opportunity where the light, weather and camera all decide to cooperate. And you always have to be prepared to fail. Batteries in particular drain very quickly at these temperatures. Despite all the precautions, high-quality technology (Nikon D850) and the cold and wet just don't get along in the long run. That's why she always has an analog medium format camera with her, just to be on the safe side.
Ms. Bacher, you are actually an architect. Today, you are a multi-award winning photographer. How did this career change come about?
"I never really switched. I have been passionate about photography ever since I my father gave me a Nikon when I was 12 years old. My camera became my constant companion from that point on. First analog, later digital. Pristine landscapes have always inspired me."
Row of houses in snowy environment - Photo: Isabelle Bacher.
Winter-proof equipment and a good camera are one thing – what else do you have to prepare yourself for when shooting in the Arctic?
"I spend most of my time driving from place to place to find the right location. This can sometimes take a few weeks, because in addition to a good subject, nature also has to play along. Once you are finally ready to get going and a cloud cover forms ... very annoying. That's why having a "Plan B" is always a good idea, like an alternate location or a place where you can shelter short-term. You also have to be good at dealing with loneliness, because the best locations are often found in unpopulated areas. Technical issues, the weather or even your own health – you have to deal with all of these challenges on your own. But it is so rewarding for me every day, again and again. The impressive variation in the Arctic light, the silence, the clean air and the changes on the mountains in general still make my heart race with excitement."
What makes working in the Arctic so special?
"You learn a lot about yourself. Above all, mindfulness. Conscious observation. What is happening right now? What is happening all around you? Every detail can make the difference between a good photo and a stunning photo. That's why I consciously take the time to think about what exactly I want to capture, what looks good and what works. But for this to succeed, good planning and preparation is key. Because you are responsible for yourself and your equipment. And if untouched nature is what you're after, you have to be well prepared for everything. In the beginning, I experimented a lot with down pants and full body coveralls to ensure that I had the ideal gear. During long exposures I protect my camera with my jacket and when I discover little white dots on my face, I now know that means I'm about to freeze to death. These are all things I've come to know over the years, and I learn more and more all the time.
Aurora - Photo: Isabelle Bacher.
Why do you have your work printed at WhiteWall?
"I invest a lot of time, love and money in my work. That means that it is very important to me for this to be reflected in the printing and material quality. As a photographer, what counts for me in the end is the quality of the final product. Pictures in exhibitions and for customers have to have the perfect colors. The printed materials need to harmonize with the character of the image. In photography, light is an absolute priority, so it's just as important to not lose that quality in printing."
Ship in the middle of a frozen lake - Photo: Isabelle Bacher.
How do you take the perfect photo?
"If there was a formula for that, I'd be filthy rich by now (laughing). But there are definitely a few factors to consider. First of all, you have to take the time to get to know the location in order to bring a certain calmness to the picture. My aim is to capture a natural moment and not a snapshot, so that needs an idea and a concept. That's how a perfect photo can be created, but every photographer has their own way of going about it."
What have you gained from all of this time you've spent in the Arctic?
"The conscious observation, looking very closely at what you see and what's going on around you. Mindfulness. I have also noticed that the solitude is good for me and also gives me the time to consciously think about what I want to show and how I want to show it. But also the clean air, taking time out from everyday life and being in nature always fill me new energy and inspiration." Whenever Isabelle Bacher talks about her work, you can see her passion. Not only has she found her dream job, she's also insanely good at it. This is also confirmed by the inquiries from gallery owners all over the world. Her photographs have been published in National Geographic, the Times and Terra Mater. In 2018, she was awarded the prestigious Sony World Photography Award. That is why we are very pleased to have already had Isabelle Bacher on board as a WhiteWall Ambassador several years ago.
As a photographer I pay particular attention to the quality of the end product. Pictures in exhibitions and for customers must have the perfect finish; the printed material or Fine Art paper have to be in harmony with the image character and the product has to be of superior quality, have a good appearance and/or work in the long run. WhiteWall totally meets my requirements. The pictures come out exactly the way I expect them to be, and the service is always excellent thanks to their global reach.
Product Recommendation: Giclée Prints with Wood Frames and Direct Print On Brushed Aluminum
I like to order my pictures on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Fine Art Paper with a black oak wood frame and non-reflective museum glass. I also find architecture photos on brushed aluminum very elegant.
Discover more product recommendations from Isabelle Bacher
Giclée print on authentic art paper from Hahnemühle, Epson & Canson
8 fine art papers to choose from
Brushed metallic look in the bright areas
Printed areas: matte surface without reflections
A classic look: Directs focus to your photo
Choose from various frames and photo mat colours